The Irreverent Ace


If someone wanted to make a film about Frenchman Charles Nungesser’s life, there would be no need for embellishment. Kathleen Hanser details just some of his daring exploits


An informal study of Nungesser standing beside a Nieuport adorned with his ‘Knight of Death’ motif in late 1917. The same emblem was painted on the side of the Levasseur PL.8 when it disappeared in 1927. SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE

Taunting German opponents with menacing markings on his aircraft, the handsome, blue-eyed Great War aviator Charles Nungesser flew under the sinister moniker ‘Knight of Death’. Gaining a reputation for being fearless, he also frequently appeared with beautiful women on his arm day and night. Despite being grounded repeatedly due to insubordination and sustaining horrifying injuries, he went on to become the third highest-ranking French ace of the war. He continued his remarkable life by becoming a Hollywood stunt pilot, and later disappeared while attempting to become the first to fly the Atlantic non-stop. The makings of a great movie…

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